Simnel Cake

Renowned cook and baker Mary Berry visited Woman's Hour to share her tips for baking the perfect Simnel Cake for Easter.

Easter Simnel Cake

Simnel cake has become the traditional Easter cake, but originally it was given by servant girls to their mothers when they went home on Mothering Sunday.

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Tips and techniques

  1. Check you have the right size tin. Why not measure and note the size on the bottom of all your tins with permanent marker?
  2. Butter the tin to make the baking parchment stick.
  3. Don't skewer the cake to check if it is cooked - it will stick to the marzipan. Instead, look to see if the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin.
  4. Crystallised flowers like primroses and violets make beautiful decorations. Brush your flower with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and leave somewhere warm eg. an airing cupboard that's not too hot.
  5. Consider treating yourself to electronic scales and a set of measuring spoons. Exact measurements will improve your baking results.

Ingredients

  • 100 g (4 oz) red or natural glacé cherries
  • 225 g (8 oz) softened butter
  • 225 g (8 oz) light muscovado sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 225 g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  • 225 g (8 oz) sultanas
  • 100 g (4 oz) currants
  • 50 g (2 oz) chopped candied peel
  • grated rind of 2 lemons
  • 2 level teaspoons ground mixed spice

 For the filling and topping

  • 450 g (1 lb) golden marzipan
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 large egg, beaten, to glaze

Preparation method

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees C or Fan 130 degrees C/Gas 2. Grease a 20 cm (8 in) deep round cake tin then line the base and sides with baking parchment.

Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. Measure all the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended. Place half the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Take one-third of the almond paste and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin and then place on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2.5 hours until well risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch. Cover with foil after 1 hour if the top is browning too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out half the remaining almond paste to fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate. Mark a criss-cross pattern on the almond paste with a sharp knife. Form the remaining almond paste into 11 balls.

Brush the almond paste with beaten egg and arrange the almond paste balls around the edge of the cake. Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg, too, and then place the cake under a hot grill to turn the almond paste golden.

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